Find a physician

Does Herniated Disc Surgery Come with a Risk of Paralysis?


12.8 - Does Herniated Disc Surgery Come with a Risk of Paralysis-min
Herniated disc surgery, a common medical intervention for those grappling with spinal issues, is not without its concerns. Among the fears that loom large in the minds of patients considering surgery is the prospect of paralysis. This article will explore the nuances of herniated disc surgery, shedding light on the risks involved and addressing the crucial question: Does herniated disc surgery come with a risk of paralysis?

Understanding Herniated Discs: A Brief Overview

Before delving into the risks associated with surgery, it is imperative to grasp the fundamentals of a herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc or ruptured disc. This occurs when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing, often leading to nerve compression and subsequent pain. While many cases can be managed through conservative measures, surgery becomes a consideration when symptoms persist or worsen.

Treatments for Herniated Discs

Most people with herniated discs can address their symptoms with conservative treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, injections, or lifestyle changes. However, some cases may require surgery if the symptoms are severe, persistent, or interfere with daily activities.

Types of Herniated Disc Surgeries

There are various surgical approaches to addressing herniated discs, each tailored to the specific needs and conditions of the patient. Common procedures include discectomy, microdiscectomy, laminectomy, and spinal fusion. These surgeries aim to alleviate pressure on the nerves, reduce pain, and restore mobility.

Identifying Risk Factors

While herniated disc surgeries have a high success rate, it is crucial to acknowledge and understand the associated risks. One of the primary concerns is the potential for neurological complications, including paralysis. However, it is essential to note that paralysis is an exceedingly rare outcome, but it can occur due to various factors, such as:

  • The type and extent of the surgery – Herniated disc surgery can vary in terms of the amount of tissue removed, the size and location of the incision, the type of anesthesia used, and the presence of any complications or infections. These factors can affect the patient’s healing and recovery time. Generally, the more invasive the surgery, the higher the risk of paralysis.
  • The location and severity of the herniated disc – Herniated discs can occur anywhere in the spine, but they are more common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine). The location and severity of the herniated disc can affect the degree of compression or irritation of the nerve root or the spinal cord as well as the proximity and vulnerability of the surrounding structures, such as blood vessels, muscles, or bones. Generally, the higher the level of the herniated disc, the higher the risk of paralysis.
  • The skill and experience of the surgeon – Herniated disc surgery requires a high level of skill and experience, as it involves working in a delicate and complex area of the spine, where the slightest error can cause serious damage or injury to the nerve root or the spinal cord. Therefore, the surgeon’s skill and experience can affect the outcome and success of the surgery as well as the risk of paralysis.

The risk of paralysis from herniated disc surgery is very low but not negligible. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of paralysis, such as:

  • Loss of movement or sensation in the arms, legs, or torso
  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the affected area

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms after herniated disc surgery, you should seek immediate medical attention, as paralysis can be a life-threatening condition that requires urgent treatment and intervention.

Neurological Monitoring during Surgery

Advancements in medical technology have significantly improved surgical procedures. Neurological monitoring during surgery is now a standard practice, allowing surgeons to closely track the patient’s neurological function in real time. This proactive measure enhances the safety of the procedure and minimizes the risk of complications.

Reducing the Risk of Paralysis After Herniated Disc Surgery

While there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of paralysis after herniated disc surgery, there are some steps you can take to reduce it as much as possible. These include:

  • Choosing a qualified and experienced spine surgeon who performs this type of surgery regularly and has a low complication rate
  • Talking with your surgeon about the benefits and risks of different surgical options and techniques for your specific case
  • Following the surgeon’s instructions before and after the surgery, such as avoiding smoking, taking antibiotics, doing physical therapy exercises, and reporting any signs of infection or nerve problems
  • Seeking immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of paralysis after the surgery, such as weakness, numbness, loss of bladder or bowel control, or difficulty breathing

Herniated disc surgery can be a safe and effective treatment, but it also comes with some risks and complications, including the risk of paralysis. Therefore, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of the surgery and consult with your doctor or surgeon before making any decision. You should also follow the surgeon’s preoperative and postoperative instructions and recommendations, and report any problems or concerns you may have during or after the surgery.

If conservative methods do not relieve the pain from a herniated disc, treatment recommendations may include surgery, such as a discectomy or a less invasive microdiscectomy. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, patients with a large hole in the outer ring of the disc have a significantly higher risk of reherniation following surgery. Often, the surgeon will not know the size of the hole until beginning surgery, and having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation.A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-705-1081.

For full benefit/risk information, please visit:

Free Ebook Download:
Captivating Ebook Title Headline

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim ipsum dolor sit amet.